No arches, big waterfalls, or scenic vistas(though the latter two are an option if there's time) on this loop in SC's Mountain Bridge Wilderness, which connects Caesars Head and Jones Gap State Parks. The main attraction was the Rim of the Gap Trail, which follows the underside of a mountain's ridge, and has lots of colorful cliffs(when the lighting is good) situated along a narrow ledge that precedes a steep dropoff into the gorge below. It's really fun if you enjoy off-trail hiking, but gets a lot of reviews crying about it being dangerous and "technical", which it can be and isn't, respectively. It is overgrown right now, often as dark in daytime as after sundown, so the lighting mostly ranged from crappy to nonexistent. I had a blast with all the rocks and roots, though pushing through foliage doea get old after a while. Sometimes there were little clear sections, though you can rarely get more than a few feet from the cliffs before the steep dropoff, so pics were limited for that variety of reasons. Took more video than pics, but mostly wasn't concerned with either.
Constant ups and downs punctuated by drainages.
Cliffline on the right, dropoff on the left. That's often about as wide an area as there is.
Vibrant colors when a little sunlight can get through:
That was pretty rare on this occasion, but there were moments...
There are ladders and even little bridges that belie the "technical" claims.
Bit of a fat man squeeze here-can't go around, that's the edge
Couple from hiking back up the bottom of the gorge the next morning:
While I had lots of fun, and did make it in 5hrs both ways this time, I'm glad to be done with I85 through GA's constant state of dysfunction for a while! Maybe somewhere closer next week...
A cold front brought low temps in the high 40s for N. TN and S. KY on Tuesday night. 40s in late June is unheard of around here, so I headed north chasing those temps, to hike some new-to-me trails, and hunt another set of "offtrail" arches. Quotes because it turned out 2 of the 3 arches I had location pings for in TN were actually right by the trail, and the third, just a couple miles away, was much easier to get to and find than anticipated-right when I started a video to show the search for the arch, I realized I was standing on top of it I made up for it by exploring around, climbing to the top and along ledges of some rock houses, and verifying(to my mind at least, since water had apparently run behind it) the presence of an additional arch. Then it was up into KY for the Buffalo Arch Trail, and part of another that connects to it, where I'd decided to camp.
Middle Creek Arch, TN
Hammock Arch, TN
"Quite likely an" Arch
A favorite spot on the little 3.5 mile Middle Creek Nature Loop that also had numerous large and beautiful rock shelters.
I've been doing frequent training hikes, leading up to some challenging trips this month, but no "real" ones or overnight backpacks until 8/31. 70F high and flash flood warnings due to storms from Hurricane Ida proved irresistible to me, though. Unfortunately, the storms curved toward the east, so the heavy rains that I expected all night and through Wednesday tapered off, then disappeared, instead. Anyway, I wanted a rough hike with cool waterfalls, so was at the Fiery Gizzard in TN, which I hadn't hiked since February.
The Gizzard wasn't very Fiery on the way in, with the trail over ankle deep in places, but it never disappoints on roughness...
..and the creeks and waterfalls were cranking pretty good!
Things cleared up overnight, so a lot of wildlife that had been absent the previous day were in evidence. That was mostly spiders and bugs, unfortunately, so I got a faceful of fresh spider webs dozens of times, but also got to see a timber rattler for the first time in quite a while. Light was horrible for pics, but I got some video...
..before walking him over to the side so I could get by
5 full and 2 partial days in the High Uintas Wilderness. Nearly a dozen mountain goats, several muleys, 2 elk(which I'd never seen in the wild), innumerable lakes, and tons of "up". Lots of offtrail hiking, including descending and traversing steep scree fields, wading up creeks/drainages, squishing through marshy meadows, negotiating burned areas covered with deadfall, some class 4 scrambling, and even a bit of bouldering in one case. Quite a few instances of rain and hail, including one crazy day when the storms rolled through like waves, and it rained on me 10(TEN!) separate times. Half a day and 2 shared camps with goatpackers who invited me to tag along, a couple who lead trips and 6 women who were with them. ~32 of the first 70ish miles in my sandals, last 10 or so in the "barefoot" shoes I work out in after a trip to the rental car(my feet are not getting along with my hiking shoes at all for some reason). A couple of straight up epic days, and all in all a fun, exciting, rewarding trip.
Guess I'm a "barefoot" hiker now😏
Since I don't have time to try other brands, there's a pair of Xero's Mesa Trails on the way.
Great pics. Beautiful location. It totally sucks that boots are not working, though I had same issue in middle age, especially after working out for years. All of a sudden shoes/boots that were great no longer were and the search was on. Very frustrating.
A week in Colorado's Weminuche Wilderness this time out. Lots of offtrail hiking via unofficial trails/climbers' routes, game trails, and cross-country bushwhacking. 20k' or more of elevation gain(went over the Continental Divide 3x on one of my two biggest days), and quite a bit of scouting and wandering, since my planned offtrail route didn't work out due to climbs that were choked with deadfalls, and another sketchy enough to make a group of 3 climbers turn back, respectively.
Looks like my 58L pack will only be used for long trips where a bear canister is required, since it turns out I can easily get 7 days/6 nights from my 38L if I use the detachable packlid.
~15F low temp at >12k' on my first night, but warming, so more like 30-45 the rest of the time. Choosing a campsite for the background, rather than practicality, meant tons of condensation for the shelter, and a sheet of ice inside and out at that low of a temp. Totally expected, but I didn't do that again.
Kept it more conservative on the 3 nights I was camped below treeline, but this one was pretty decent.
Along with handling the elevation and climbs really well, a couple of moose encounters were memorable high points. After getting myself out into alpine meadows that had me wading shin deep in mud while pressing through brush up to 10' high, I'd gotten so frustrated and angry that I was questioning why I do this stuff at all. It resulted in perfect timing, though. After rejoining the CDT, I stepped out on a familiar outcropping to take the requisite pic of the Window and Rio Grande Pyramid...
...and heard a loud moan that sounded like it was right next to me-because it was. Two moose were getting it on so close I could have spit on them. Too close for comfort, as I had no desire to be trampled to death by a rutting bull moose, but I was really excited to see them.
The next morning, I got to see another one. Well, I didn't see him at first...
Pics weren't a priority(3rd trip), so I didn't even bring my camera, but this is one of my favorite spots. First night's camp was way up past those peaks in the background.
Mostly tame stuff on the KY side of Big South Fork this week, with only a couple hours bushwhacking to look for an arch(in the wrong place!) and a little exploring in some choked and tangled drainages. Also drove over to Pickett State Park in TN before deciding to head home, rather than stay out a second night.
Visited a couple of roadside arches on the way in, New Arch and Wagon Arch.
Wagon Arch's initial appearance is deceptive.
The Negro Creek Loop begins at a TH for Markers Arch, that's less than half a mile down a side trail, then joins the Yahoo Falls Loop, leaves that for the Sheltowee Trace following the BSF river, then climbs up Negro Creek to get back to the starting point. Easy hike, only about 9.2 miles plus whatever crisscrossing the area around Yahoo Falls adds. Lots of fun, and plenty to look at, though.
Markers Arch has pretty good camo, when viewed from above!
Yahoo Arch also tries to hide, and does pretty well, considering how big it is.
Touristy or not(easily accessible from a nearby TH and parking lot, and the tallest waterfall in KY), I love, love, love Yahoo Falls!
While I decided not to get into another overnight hike near there, I always enjoy stopping by Pickett State Park's Arch Lake and imaginatively named Natural Bridge.
I thought this was going to be a pretty mundane overnighter at Savage Gulf, but such was not the case. From waking up at midnight to a large something(dog, bear?-ran away when I yelled at it) breathing heavily in my face, sudden breezes making it rain leaves that hit the water just in time to go over Horsepound Falls, a baby rattler with a full tummy lounging in the trail on a cool morning, to seeing Ranger Falls for the first time in quite a while, somehow "mundane" just doesn't feel like the right word. And then there was the pouring rain for the last 3 miles on the way out, not bothering with rain gear, and crazy cloud action in Trenton, GA that no doubt had Cloudland Canyon living up to its name. Yeah, it was ok😃
AL's Cheaha Wilderness this week, the South Cheaha Loop aka Skyway Loop combining the Chinnabee Silent Trail, Skyway Trail, and a section of the Pinhoti Trail. After a late start climbing to the top of the mountain...
..I was hiking in the clouds for a bit.
This is my kinda hiking!
Hiked 'til an hour after sunset, then slept in way late.
Sunlight was killing my pics at the Chinnabee's section of waterfalls called Devil's Den, but I got one below there while crossing the creek, and another from further up.
The finale before reaching my car, Cheaha Falls(at least it was partially shaded!).
btw, after last week's disturbing events, I may or may not have dragged a limb with lots of branches in front of the pocket tarp last night. Told my mother that I woke up in the middle of the night, meaning to tell her about how bright the moon was, and she interrupted with "Oh, was something licking your face?"
More of the Canyonlands Needles District, and I can say without hesitation that I'm not done there. Good timing and much more complicated logistics will be required to get me into some even less traveled areas, which I just broke the surface of on this trip, though, as accessibility can be a major issue. Naturally, water is always an issue in the desert, too. It was intermittently available in the Salt Creek area, but I still started out with nearly 4L, a bear canister, and 4 days of food when heading down there. With nighttime temps in the teens(speaking of timing, 3F is forecast Friday night), pools were frozen, but there was still some running water in places.
Overnighters in the main part of the Needles require no bear canister, but there are no reliable water sources, either, so the bear can got replaced with a gallon jug of water there. That section always has a few dayhikers, but I've yet to see another backpacker in my off-season trips. Spending the first three nights in a much more remote area meant my sole conversation was with this fellow.
I used my tarp some, out of habit, but reverted to my bivy.
I didn't carry my camera, and actually kept more videos than pictures. Did lots of exploring, and saw many smaller arches, but Angel Arch was one set destination.
So was Paul Bunyan's Potty.
I love the desert...
Druid Arch was still in its place, and I explored the canyon behind it before taking the traditional route up to visit it.
I stopped by Arches NP on the way out of Moab, and Delicate Arch hadn't moved, either.
As of yesterday, I'm probably done for 2021, unless I decide to go get another quickie in the rain. Started last week getting taken up on a hike I'd committed to with some kids on short notice, as I was headed out of state the next morning. Short dayhike to a waterfall, plus some hiking on familiar mtb trails to a couple of favorite spots while in the area. My cousin's daughter apparently wants to hike again with "Uncle Owen", which was doubly heartwarming since she'd also expressed to me that climbing a ridge over the rocks was preferable to using the trail. My cousin indicated she wasn't open to selling her, but it was worth a try(hey, I'm single at 50-how else am I gonna get grandkids?).
Christmas Day, I drove to NC to meet my favorite hiking companions, and we met up in the dark at a campsite, then spent a few days in the Middle Prong and Shining Rock Wilderness areas of Pisgah NF. My friend neglected to mention that mountaintops require uphill hiking, but I figured it out pretty quick.
I quickly set about trying to steal his dog, as usual.
We had a bunch of great views, and a couple of sweet campsites.
Not the blizzard we were hoping for, as our "winter trip", but not a bad way to end the year, either😃 Farewell, 2021!